I stood in the corner of our Oklahoma living room looking at a room empty of all belongings with a mountain of luggage behind me, my two babies sleeping on the floor, and sign on our fire place staring at me declaring that “The best things in life aren’t things”. That was the moment that it hit me. The moment I knew we were really moving. The moment I felt the weight of family on my shoulders. The moment I realized it’s just stuff.
Just 6 short weeks prior to that moment, we found out we would be moving. And just 6 short weeks prior, I was so emotionally attached to the things of this world that if my heart had knuckles, they would have been white from clenching so tight.
I held onto a skirt because it’s what I wore the day after my husband and I got married. And I kept my childhood piano that hadn’t been played in 15 years just because my daughter might like it. And I held onto insignificant pieces of paper like cards from people I barely knew that simply said “congrats on your new baby”.
It was the process of decluttering, downsizing, and saying goodbye to our material possessions that made me realize I was addicted. I was addicted to the “high” that memories brought me. And instead of treasuring the moment in my heart, I tried to keep the things… the stuff… that I associated with it.
So now that we were moving, the ugly house I hated from the moment we moved into it was suddenly part of this addiction that I couldn’t shake. As I would pack, I would walk through the living room with tears as I remembered my daughter crawling and walking in those places. I would get choked up as the holograms of my handsome groom carrying his bride across the threshold walked through the front door of my memory. And I would watch the bed my youngest was born on walk out the door and into the home of a friend.
We spent two weekends selling small belongings at the local swap meet with the goal to just not come home with anything. And we didn’t. We sold for dirt cheap to move it out and never remember it again and the few boxes left were donated so they would never enter our home again. We piled piece of furniture after piece of furniture into our game room to be like a show room for potential craigslist buyers. And while we sold several things, we learned the art of giving away most of it.
I stood in front of the moms’ group at my church the week before we left telling them we still had a house full of furniture and we had decided to not take any of it with us. One of the ladies had a word for me and said that it was the year of the whirlwind and that just as a caterpillar is comfortable in the home it has made itself, once it breaks free from the cocoon, the world is open to possibilities it had never known before.
It wasn’t until two recently-graduated girls came by and surveyed our entire home, that I realized the true art of letting go. It didn’t seem right to sell them our memories. It was just stuff waiting to make new memories in a new home. A table and chairs, a TV, a dresser, end tables, a coffee table, a desk, and more. It all marched out of my home. And the feeling I got from it was exuberance. They were just beginning their lives and the weight of starting out was lifted from their shoulders and the weight of not being able to let go was lifted from mine. Another family from our church that had just immigrated here from China took our mattress and our last dresser. And another got our sectional sofa. And suddenly our house was empty.
Because of repairs we made on the house, new flooring, new paint, and even new walls, I walked through the empty house and it wasn’t my home. I looked at the room filled with tears and a roller coaster of emotions and memories. Memories that live in my heart and not possessions or the structure in which I lived.
Now 1,700 miles away, I have learned so much. I have learned to let go, to embrace change, and realize that my memories do not have to be tied to material objects. And it is so liberating. I could have never imagined the freedom and beauty that letting go brings… Because in the end, the best things in life truly aren’t things and the life of a butterfly is truly so much more beautiful than that of a caterpillar.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!